If you were fired into the sky at the fastest speed mankind has ever achieved in space, it would take you 60,000 years to reach the next closest star system.
I love that kind of stuff, the vast distance of space kind of talk, the fact that the light from some stars at night took many millions of years to reach our eyes.
The idea of a “light year” is baffling. The distance a beam of light travels in one year totals roughly 5.9 trillion miles. A recently discovered galaxy was determined to be roughly 11.4 billion light years away. Okay, so that’s 11.4 billion by 5.9 trillion miles. That would be a mighty long ride in a stinky metal tube of fire.
I sometimes surf the Internet looking for various space oddities (not the David Bowie kind). I particularly like things that show an unbelievable stretch in scale, like the fact that over one million Earths could fit on the sun.
Here are a few other space facts that I stumbled across and found pretty interesting.
Did you know?
•The Milky Way Galaxy is about 150,000 light-years across.
•Our moon has only one eightieth the mass of the Earth.
•The largest mountain in the Solar System is Olympus Mons on Mars. At a height of over 26 km (16 miles), it is nearly three times taller than Mt. Everest.
•The Sun looks 1,600 times fainter from Pluto than it does from the Earth.
•The elements Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, and Nitrogen - all crucial to life - are found in roughly the same proportions in comets and human beings.
•If you attempted to count all the stars in a galaxy at a rate of one every second it would take around 3,000 years to count them all.
•If you shouted in space, even if someone was right next to you, they wouldn't be able to hear you.
•The surface, or photosphere, of the sun is about 10,000° Fahrenheit.
I’m always sucked into any television show about space — actual space that is, not science fiction. I don’t have any desire to learn Klingon.
But I’ll watch “The Right Stuff” anytime it’s on. I like the section of the movie devoted to testing the astronauts, those sleep-deprived guys locked in a neon-lit room, the one fellow going crazy as the horns honk, or the long walk down the hall during the bladder control tests. I’ve only heard a sonic boom a couple of times in my life. But I’m sure when Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier that first time, he scared some folks with that man-made thunder. I like that scene in the movie, too.
Sometimes people will talk about how man will one day colonize the moon or Mars or some other land in space. That doesn’t excite me. No, it just sounds bleak. Just think of all the mundane stuff that would be complicated by the spacesuit, like fixing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
I’d never want to put on a space suit and be propelled upward by an explosion into that darkness where there’s nothing to breathe.
No, I’m content to stay on this planet, sit on the porch and look up at night.
I always enjoy those nights when the stars are crisp, and they truly have a greater luster in Madison County than where I grew up.
It’s weird how contemplating the heavens keeps you grounded. But I believe it does.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.